Tuesday, May 20, 2014

NZMM Day 20 – OMC

If I'm talking about BIG New Zealand acts, I have to mention OMC, the first New Zealand act to reach the Number One spot on a Billboard chart.

The name “OMC” is short for “Otara Millionaires Club” which is a pisstake: Otara is one of the poorest suburbs in Auckland. The group was originally formed in 1993 by Phil Fuemana who basically gave the band to his younger brother, Pauly. He, in turn, suggested shortening the name to OMC. The Fuemana brothers had grown up in Otara.

The video above is their big hit, “How Bizarre” (1995), from the album of the same name (which wasn’t released until 1997). It was Number One in Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the USA, and Number 5 in the UK. It went Platinum in Australia and 3x Platinum in New Zealand. The album hit Humber 5 in New Zealand, 44 in Canada and 40 in the USA.

Their next single, “Right On” (1996, below) was from the same album and reached Number 11 in New Zealand, but didn’t chart in any of the countries I write about. Nevertheless, it went Platinum in New Zealand.

The following year, 1997, they released the last single to chart, “Land of Plenty” (below). It reached Number 4 in New Zealand, but didn’t chart anywhere else. This song was very New Zealand-centric, which may have limited its appeal, but that’s also what made it popular here. I liked it and the video, with its iconic New Zealand scenery. It was released in my second year in New Zealand, which meant I was especially drawn to it.

Pauly Fuemana died of respiratory failure on January 31, 2010, following a long battle with chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy. He was eight days shy of his 41st birthday. Older brother Phil died of a heart attack in 2005.

And that’s where this particular story ends. Unlike most of the acts I’ve written about, there’s no chance there’ll be any new music from OMC. Still, they live on through the history they made, and that’s kind of the point of these posts.


rogerogreen said...

I LOVED How Bizarre - probably my last period watching MTV close to regularly - and assumed that the band was Amerindian Hispanic.

Arthur (AmeriNZ) said...

It's not always easy to tell. Pauly himself was mixed-heritage, half-Nieuean and half Māori, which makes it hard even for people living here. But we knew about them from the name of the group, among other things.

But if the media doesn't make things clear, it doesn't help. When I first saw the first video from Crowded House, I thought they were Australian (which is how they were described in the US). I didn't know Neil Finn's name back in the Split Enz days (then, as now, I didn't usually know the names of folks in a band), and I didn't recognise him, anyway.

So, it certainly isn't "bizarre" to not know where a group comes from!